Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (December 3, 2015)
I recently came across an article that talked about the importance of ‘dating’ your spouse. During times of courtship and dating, both parties make such intentional efforts to dress up, to engage in conversations, to update each other on life, on being intrigued by the other, and genuinely enjoy quality time together. And the article talked about how it’s important to continue doing all those things even and especially after being married. After being married, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in things like work, family commitments, paying bills, taking care of family – all which are important but can take make a person forget to nurture the marriage itself. And so, it’s important to continue going on dates to invest in the relationship. It’s different for every couple and sometimes it might be to go out for a simple meal and just talk; other times it might be to go and do something fun together like learning how to rock climb and other times it might be to stay at home and watch a movie together. Whatever the activity is, it’s about quality time. And it’s worth taking the time out for dates.
I believe the same is true for other relationships, including parent-child relationships. Sometimes the only time that children spend with their parents is the time they are doing homework together and that is certainly not quality time! In the busyness of life, parents get so wrapped up in the daily commitments for the children that there isn’t time to ‘date’ them.
Recently, I had the pleasure of going on a one-week trip with my mum and it was such a treat. We went around visiting different parts of town, visited museums and went to some wonderful restaurants. But most of all, it was the conversations we had that I really enjoyed. We talked about life, faith, relationships, goals and dreams, and everything in between.
Not everyone can arrange one-week vacations with their children but I am a supporter of parent-child dates where one parent brings out one child for a date on a regular basis. I think parents should take turns to bring out their child because there is a different dynamic and topics of conversations between mother-child and father-child. And it helps each parent get to know their child personally, without the other parents being there.
And if there is more than one child, it’s a good idea to bring each child out individually (not together) to give them that personal attention and to celebrate their uniqueness and individuality. I know of families where they have 2 children and they arrange it so that they have parent-child dates arranged on the same day so dad takes out the daughter and mum takes out the son and then they swap it for the following time.
I also think that these parent-child dates can be a great way to prevent sibling rivalry. Sometimes, children will perceive parents to have favouritism (even if they don’t) just because the parents have to spend more time with the older child because of school commitments or with the younger child because of their physical needs. Allocating time for each child individually reinforces the idea that you love them both (or all, if there are more than 2) equally and that they each deserve your attention.
Here are some things to remember when spending time on these dates:
Going on one great date is fantastic but the key is making it consistent and going to regular dates. In the busy lives of parents, it’s hard to be spontaneous and consistent so make it a marked calendar event so that it can happen regularly. Work out what is best for you and your child in terms of regularity and time of day (after school might be great for young kids but early evenings may be better for teenagers).
2. Short but sweet
Dates don’t have to be long and could just be a quick walk through the park or to go get an ice cream. Keep it short and sweet!
3. Be engaged
We all know how being together in physical proximity doesn’t necessarily mean quality time. There’s no point going on a date and being on the phone the whole time. So, put the phone away and get some conversations going.
4. Get ideas
The best person to get ideas from for date ideas are your children. Ask them what they want to do because ultimately, if they are engaged and enjoying themselves, you are set to have a great date.
Don’t wait until your child is too old to want to spend time with you on a date before you ask. So initiate now and take some time out to go on a date – first your spouse then your children!